Timeline of the 1978 Guyana Inquest •
Coroner’s inquest into the Jonestown deaths

In accordance with the Guyanese Coroner’s Act of 1887, which requires an inquest in the case of an “unusual death,” the government of Guyana held an inquest in Matthews Ridge to investigate the deaths at Jonestown – including the death of Jim Jones. Commencing in December 1978, the ten-day-long inquest heard the testimonies of six Jonestown survivors and numerous Guyanese authorities. This timeline includes the dates of all testimonies and findings at the inquest, along with links to relevant news clippings.

The transcript and verdict of the inquest is here.

Date: Event(s): Sources:
Monday, November 20: Assistant Commissioner of Police, Cecil “Skip” Roberts; Detective Inspector of Police, Vernon Gentle; and Detective, Richard Oliver—in the company of survivors, Tim and Mike Carter, Mike Prokes, and Odell Rhodes—return to Jonestown to begin body identification and recover the cash-filled suitcases left behind by the Carter brothers and Mike Prokes. Los Angeles Times – Jerry Belcher and Leonard Greenwood, “LAT Nov 26 13 Who Escape Say They Had to Abandon Money,” p. 1, cont. on p. 33.

Wednesday, December 13: The inquest commences at the Matthews Ridge courthouse, which is located approximately 28 miles from Jonestown.

The five-member jury consists of:

Albert A. Graham (Foreman), Charles Hinds, Prince Glasgow, Ivelav Worrel, and Leam Pocle.

Three testimonies are heard:

A.C.C Cecil “Skip” Roberts; Pathologist Dr. Cyril Mootoo; and Detective Richard Oliver.

American Embassy to State Dept Cable O 141415Z DEC 78 • GEORGETOWN 4281 • SUBJ: CORONER’S INQUEST INTO JONESTOWN MASS DEATH

Guyana Inquest

Thursday, December 14: Led by Chief Magistrate Haroon Bacchus, the jury tours Jonestown while being accompanied by survivors Stanley Clayton and Odell Rhodes.

Two testimonies are heard:

Coroner’s Clerk, Seeram Persaud, and survivor Odell Rhodes.

Los Angeles Times  – Charles T. Powers, “Inquest Tour Makes Coroner Ill,” p. 3, cont. on p. 23.

Guyana Inquest

Friday, December 15: Three testimonies are heard:

survivor Odell Rhodes; Detective Inspector of Police Vernon Gentle; and survivor Stanley Clayton.

Guyana Inquest
Saturday, December 16: Five testimonies are heard:

Port Kaituma security guards, Paul Adams and Gilbert Gomes; survivors Tim and Mike Carter; and survivor Mike Prokes.

Guyana Inquest
Sunday, December 17: Two final testimonies are heard:

Survivor Herbert Newell[1], and A.C.C Cecil “Skip” Roberts.

A.C.C. Cecil Roberts presents new evidence: namely, the financial letters that were found in the cash-ridden suitcases carried and hidden by the Carter brothers and Mike Prokes.

FBI Serial 1509

Guyana Inquest

Los Angeles Times  – Charles T. Powers, “Effort Was Made to Send Jonestown Funds to Russia,” p. 1, cont. on p. 31.

San Francisco Examiner  – Peter H. King, “How temple planned to shift funds to Soviets,” p. 6.

Friday, December 22: A verdict is returned by the jury: 910 persons were murdered by Jim Jones; Jim Jones was murdered by an unknown person or persons and died from gunshot wounds; Maria Katsaris committed suicide by drinking the cyanide poison; and Annie Moore committed suicide and died from gunshot wounds.

An open verdict is also returned regarding the death of an “unidentified Caucasian male.”


Guyana Inquest


[1] Herbert Newell survived as he, along with Clifford Gieg, were sent to take the Cudjoe boat down the Kaituma River the morning of November 18. Both men were initially requested to testify at the inquest; however, Clifford Gieg had already departed Guyana in early December, resulting in only Herbert Newell being summoned as a witness in Matthews Ridge.

(Aliah Mohmand is a student with an interest in Peoples Temple. Her interest began in 2021, and her research encouraged her to write for the Institute. Her previous research project, published in the 2023 edition of the jonestown report is The Drama of the Park Hotel: A Lesser-Known Aspect of the Jonestown Aftermath. She may be reached at aliahmohmand@gmail.com.)